garyclark-4b.jpg
Dave Lake
The many guitar faces of Gary Clark Jr.
Gary Clark Jr.

Monday, Feb. 13

The Crocodile

Gary Clark Jr . is like the

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Gary Clark Jr. Plays the Hell Out of the Blues, His Guitar at the Crocodile

garyclark-4b.jpg
Dave Lake
The many guitar faces of Gary Clark Jr.
Gary Clark Jr.

Monday, Feb. 13

The Crocodile

Gary Clark Jr. is like the anti-Lana Del Rey. The 27-year-old Texan, who has been compared to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix, has built a sizable buzz for himself in advance of his major label debut, only he's managed to do it not via the hype of music bloggers, but on good old-fashioned word of mouth thanks to his ferocious live performances. And a ferocious live show is what Clark delivered to a sold out Crocodile on Monday, the first of just three West Coast dates before he heads back to Texas.

Clark has become a well-known act in his hometown of Austin, but his soulful brand of blues-rock is just being discovered by the rest of the world, helped along by a few high profile gigs including Bonnaroo, the Crossroads Guitar Festival and a slot on this year's Sasquatch. He's also racked up several notable admirers including Paul McCartney, Roger Waters and Alicia Keys, who he performed alongside last year.

Though it's Clark's guitar playing that is the real star of his live show, his songs are much more than merely vessels for extended guitar solos -- though there were plenty of those too. He's got a rich, soulful voice that can seamlessly segue into falsetto, which mirrors the shift he can make between songs, alternating between fiery blues numbers and tender ballads, all of which are showcased on last year's four-song Bright Lights EP, most of which he played on Monday, and which Rolling Stone deemed one of 2011's 50 best albums.

If there is any room for improvement in Clark's live show it's in his rapport with the audience, which isn't to say he wasn't gracious, just quiet. The crowd was clearly enamored of him, hooting and hollering between songs, but Clark let his guitar do the talking. With the exception of several thank yous, the extent of Clark's dialogue with the crowd came after a particularly soulful ballad. "That's enough of that sweet stuff," he said with a smile. "It's about to get crazy in here."

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Despite all the hype hurled at Clark, the praise is warranted. He's a musical force to be reckoned with, a serious songwriter and a motherfucker of a guitar player. He is that rare breed who can play as soulful as he can dexterous. And as he travels the country converting the curious, so too will spread the news of his abilities. Just wait till you hear how people will talk after he plays Sasquatch. Bon Iver who?

BTW: Fellow Austin band White Dress opened, playing a nice set of sleepy, reverb-heavy blues led by Arum Rae's sultry voice, which brimmed with emotion, bringing to mind Chan Marshall and PJ Harvey.

You know you're shredding when... Fans can't help but buy you shots in the middle of a particularly raucous guitar solo. "Seriously?," he said, after discovering the whiskey being held up was for his him. "Thank you."

 
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